The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, and the former Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, will test their political strengths in the state following their recent parting of ways.
The battleground will be this Saturday’s bye-election organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the vacant seat of Dass constituency at the Bauchi State House of Assembly.
INEC recently fixed Saturday, December 5, for bye-elections across Nigeria.
The Dass House of Assembly seat became vacant following the assassination of its former occupant, Musa Baraza, then a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Late Mr Baraza was on August 14 murdered by unknown assailants at his country home, Baraza, in Dass Local Government Area.
Some suspects have been arrested while the police say an investigation into the murder is ongoing.
The bye-election is not only meant to replace the deceased legislator but it is also an epic battle between the two top political friends turned foes.
Dass is one of the local government areas under Mr Dogara’s federal constituency.
Mr Dogara was until August 24, a member of the state’s governing PDP and a close ally of Mr Mohammed. It is generally believed that Mr Dogara, who was the then-Speaker of the House of Representative, played a key role in the 2019 election that brought Mr Mohammed of the PDP to power.
Now in different political parties, Messrs Mohammed and Dogara are using the Dass House of Assembly bye-election to test their local influence.
Mr Dogara enjoys a cult-followership in his constituency, Dass/Tafawa-Balewa/Bogoro Federal Constituency, a reason he never lost any of his elections in the area since 2003.
Governor Mohammed, who also enjoys vast popularity in the state, was also a former senator under whose constituency Dass is located. The former FCT minister is expected to deploy his incumbency influence to ensure the people of Dass show support for his party, the APC.
The exit of Mr Dogara from PDP barely 15 months after he “assisted” the party to form a government came as a huge embarrassment to the party.
To demonstrate how critical it is for him to win the state assembly seat for his new party, Mr Dogara did not only bankroll the campaign for his party’s candidate, he also stormed Dass township for the party’s grand campaign on Wednesday in the company of several serving members of the National Assembly, as well as top APC stalwarts from within and outside Bauchi.
Among those that followed Mr Dogara to Dass for the bye-election campaign were Jikan Haliru, an APC Senator from Bauchi, and a lawmaker, Gudaji Kazaure, from Jigawa State.
During the campaign, Mr Dogara told the crowd that, “this election is between me and Governor Bala Mohammed.”
The former speaker accused Governor Mohammed of failing the people of the state especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
He urged the people to vote an APC candidate to enable the federal government to complete some of the ongoing projects in Dass local government.
He accused Governor Mohammed’s administration of corruption and lack of accountability.
On Thursday, at the same venue, in Dass town, Mr Mohammed also led his party for its grand rally ahead of the Saturday bye-election.
Though Mr Mohammed had earlier stated that he would not glorify the former’s speakers “baseless” accusations with a reply, he, however, said “I am in no way his equal, and no one assisted me to attain what God has blessed me with.
“I was once a senator, and then a minister and now a governor, and all credits goes to God,” he said.
Responding to Mr Dogara’s accusations that his government diverted rice meant for COVID-19 palliative, Mr Bala said “good governance is not about food or sharing of motorcycles.”
He said good governance is about “establishing infrastructure that will benefit the people.” Mr Mohammed said his government has proposed a tertiary institution in Dass among many other capacity-building facilities.
“We have proposed 150 houses and schools here in Dass; we want to empower the youth to be self-reliant.”
The governor said he has also proposed to assist the family of the deceased assembly member.
“The late state lawmaker was a good man, and I mourn his gruesome murder and be rest assured the killers have been identified. But I have said that we must support his family. So I have approved the donation of three vehicles for his children to use as a means of income generation.”
“We are not afraid of anyone. I am ready to face the big players from the national level: not here in the state,” he said.